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Lanai Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated April 2024 ⋅ Written by Vanessa Howard ⋅ Edited by Laura Schulthies

The Best Of Lanai: Lanai Visitors Guide.
Lanai Travel Guide : Things to do in Lanai Hawaii

Welcome to Lanai

Welcome to the enchanting world of Lanai, Hawaii’s hidden gem in the vast Pacific Ocean. Nestled southwest of Maui and south of Molokai, this tranquil island invites you to explore its untouched beauty and immerse yourself in authentic Hawaiian culture. Known as the “Pineapple Island”, visitors are captivated by Lanai’s diverse landscapes, from lush rainforests and dramatic cliffs to pristine beaches and crystalline waters. As the smallest inhabited island in Hawaii, Lanai offers a serene escape from the crowds, where relaxation, adventure, and discovery harmoniously blend. Embark on a journey of a lifetime as we unveil the best of Lanai’s treasures in this comprehensive guide.

Welcome to the enchanting world of Lanai, Hawaii’s hidden gem in the vast Pacific Ocean. Nestled southwest of Maui and south of Molokai, this tranquil island invites you to explore its untouched beauty and immerse yourself in authentic Hawaiian culture. Known as the “Pineapple Island”, visitors are captivated by Lanai’s diverse landscapes, from lush rainforests and dramatic cliffs to pristine beaches and crystalline waters. As the smallest inhabited island in Hawaii, Lanai offers a serene escape from the crowds, where relaxation, adventure, and discovery harmoniously blend. Embark on a journey of a lifetime as we unveil the best of Lanai’s treasures in this comprehensive guide.

Lanai Map

Lanai Map

Contents

Lanai Visitors Guide
Lanai Visitors Guide

A Bit Of History

Lanai has an exciting history dating back to the Polynesians. However, the natives believed that evil spirits lived in Lanai. Legend suggested that man-eating spirits kept the natives from venturing to and settling on the island of Lanai. The island got its first inhabitant, Kauluaau, a man banished from Maui in the early 1500s. For hundreds of years, the island of Lanai was under the rule of the King of Maui until Kamehameha set out to unite the Hawaiian Islands under one ruler.

Another significant change to Lanai came in 1922 when James Dole purchased the island for about $1.1 million. Dole was the president of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, which was later named the Dole Food Company. Much of the land on Lanai was used for pineapple plantations.

Lanai Today

Today the island’s beautiful geography attracts travelers looking for romance, adventure, or a little rest and relaxation. This small island with a big personality promises to delight you with endlessly stunning landscapes, authentic cuisine, luxurious resorts and everything in between. Whether you want to go snorkeling, have an adventure on a 4×4, or be transported to another world at Garden of the Gods, Lanai has it all.

Where Is Lanai?

Lanai Map

Lanai is located in the central Pacific Ocean and is part of the state of Hawaii in the United States. It is situated to the west of Maui and is the sixth-largest of the Hawaiian islands. Lanai is approximately 9 miles (14 kilometers) west of Maui’s western shore, 8.8 miles (14.2 kilometers) south of Molokai and about 97 miles (156 kilometers) northwest of Oahu. Lanai covers an area of about 140 square miles (364 square kilometers).

The Best Of Lanai: Lanai Visitors Guide.
The Best Of Lanai: Lanai Visitors Guide.

Best Time To Visit Lanai

The best time to travel to Lanai is between June and November. These are the region’s warmest and driest months. Thanks to Lanai’s trade winds, the temperature remains comfortable year-round, with highs in the mid-70s and lows lingering in the mid-60s.

The best time to travel to Lanai is between June and November. These are the region’s warmest and driest months. Thanks to Lanai’s trade winds, the temperature remains comfortable year-round, with highs in the mid-70s and lows lingering in the mid-60s.

January – April

If you visit Lanai for the whale-watching season, you will want to plan your trip between January and April. These are peak whale-watching months. The season technically begins in December and ends in May. Remember that winter is the most popular time to visit Hawaii, so you will likely encounter high airfare and accommodation rates.

Mid-April – June

Between the end of surf season and the start of summer, you will find the sweet spot when fewer travelers come to the island, resulting in many hotels and airlines offering reduced rates. Popular attractions in Honolulu are less crowded, and you may even spot a humpback whale in April and May. Average temperatures hover between the high 60s to high 80s.

Mid-June – November

Lanai’s summer and fall are the best time to travel to the island. Marked by dry, warm conditions, this time of year has (mostly) perfect weather. While this period falls during hurricane season, tropical storms are rare in Hawaii. You might even enjoy a slight break in hotel rates from late summer to fall.

January – April

If you visit Lanai for the whale-watching season, you will want to plan your trip between January and April. These are peak whale-watching months. The season technically begins in December and ends in May. Remember that winter is the most popular time to visit Hawaii, so you will likely encounter high airfare and accommodation rates.

Mid-April – June

Between the end of surf season and the start of summer, you will find the sweet spot when fewer travelers come to the island, resulting in many hotels and airlines offering reduced rates. Popular attractions in Honolulu are less crowded, and you may even spot a humpback whale in April and May. Average temperatures hover between the high 60s to high 80s.

Mid-June – November

Lanai’s summer and fall are the best time to travel to the island. Marked by dry, warm conditions, this time of year has (mostly) perfect weather. While this period falls during hurricane season, tropical storms are rare in Hawaii. You might even enjoy a slight break in hotel rates from late summer to fall.

  When Is Lanai Hurricane Season?

The hurricane season for Lanai, like in the rest of Hawaii, officially runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. However, the peak of the hurricane season in Hawaii is usually from mid-August to early October. While it’s important to be aware of the potential for hurricanes during this time, it’s worth noting that Hawaii is not typically affected by direct hits from hurricanes, as the islands are small targets in a vast ocean and the mountains of Hawaii can disrupt the flow of storm systems. Be sure to check weather reports ahead of time and we always suggest getting travel insurance during these months just in case.

Hurricane Season
The Best Of Lanai: Lanai Visitors Guide.
The Best Of Lanai: Lanai Visitors Guide.

How to Get to Lanai & Around

Transportation on Lanai can be a bit tricky, but we have you covered with how to get to this island paradise by air or ferry. Once on the island, it’s easy to explore by renting a car.

Oahu Visitors Guide

Arrival By Air

If you arrive in Lanai by plane, your flight options will be limited. You will likely connect through Honolulu or Maui to reach Lanai since there are no direct flights from outside the Hawaii Islands to Lanai Airport. Only two inter-island airlines travel to and from Lanai, Mokulele Air and Ohana by Hawaiian. If you would instead like to take a private flight to the island, you must stay at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai to gain access. With this, you will have service from Lanai Air, and you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the luxury flight experience.

  Search for great deals on flights here.

  You can easily book ground transportation from the airport to your hotel here.

Lanai Visitors Guide

Ferry

The ferry is a fantastic way to get to Lanai, particularly if you are interested in a scenic trip across the ocean. The Expeditions Ferry service travels to and from Lanai two round trips daily, seven days a week, and estimates each trip to take about one hour to complete. Ferries begin daily at 6:45 am; the boats depart from the Lahaina Harbor on Maui and arrive at Lanai’s Manele Harbor docks. This last trip each day leaves Lanai around 5:30 pm.

One-way tickets cost $30 for adults and $20 for kids. You will need to make reservations for the ferry in advance and plan to arrive 30 minutes before your reserved departure time.

Rental Car

Exploring Lanai’s beautiful, otherworldly landscape is best done with the help of a four-wheel-drive rental vehicle. You can rent a Jeep from Dollar Rent a Car or Lanai Cheap Jeep & Subaru Rentals in Lanai City. Prices vary depending on the length of your rental, but you’ll want to reserve a vehicle before your arrival to secure the best rate. Typical Jeep rental costs are around $225 per day.

  Search for great deals on rental cars here.

Things To Do in Lanai

Lanai's Top Highlights

Lanai’s casual, private atmosphere draws in most of its visitors, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of adventures and experiences to enjoy on the Pineapple Island.

Lanai Visitors Guide
1
Snorkel at Hulopoe Beach
Lanai Visitors Guide
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1. Snorkel at Hulopoe Beach

You can’t visit Lanai without spending some time on Hulopoe Beach. You can swim in serene waters, sunbathe on the warm golden sands, or go snorkeling to explore the vibrant underwater world of gorgeous Hulopoe Beach.

This beach has something for everyone every season, so get ready to swim in some of the calmest waters around Lanai during the summer months. Or enjoy a stunning show of dolphins and humpback whales offshore in winter. Take your reef shoes to explore the crackled lava tidal pools at low tide, easily accessed by the stairs at the end of the beach.

Lanai Visitors Guide
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Marvel At Garden Of The Gods
Lanai Visitors Guide
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2. Marvel at Garden of The Gods

Garden of the Gods, or Keahiakwelo, is a massive rock garden and barren landscape. The garden is located on the island’s northwestern side, making visitors feel like they are on Mars. The red-dusted landscape features a sprawling rock garden filled with rock towers and giant boulders formed by thousands of years of erosion.

The Garden of the Gods is even part of two Hawaiian legends. One legend suggests that gods dropped the rocks from the sky. The other says that a fire-burning contest between the priests of Lanai and Molokai created the stunning lunar landscape. You can explore the landscape of Garden of the Gods on your own by foot or rent a Jeep for more adventure.

Lanai Visitors Guide
3
Play A Round At The Manele Golf Course
Lanai Visitors Guide
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3. Play A Round at The Manele Golf Course

Above the crashing surf of Hulopoe Bay, you will find the Manele Golf Course. This outstanding course more than lives up to its name and is as unique as it is beautiful. The course is built on lava outcroppings, and this Jack Nicklaus-designed championship golf course features three holes on cliffs that use the Pacific Ocean as a water hazard.

The course is challenging even for the best golfers, as the tee shots are over natural gorges and ravines, your shots must be precise, to say the least. Thanks to the dramatic and unspoiled natural terrain of Lanai, each shot has a stunning backdrop, and every hole offers majestic ocean views. If you play during the winter, keep an eye out for spectacular sightings of whales right from the fairways.

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Standard health insurance likely doesn’t cover you while outside of the country so travel insurance will cover any emergency medical needs as well as trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage (it happens), flight delays, missed connections and more. You can easily compare the top-rated travel insurance plans here.

Lanai Visitors Guide
4
Hike The Koloiki Ridge Trail
Lanai Visitors Guide
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4. Hike The Koloiki Ridge Trail

The Koloiki Ridge Trail delivers terrific long-range views. Beginning at the Four Seasons Hotel, not far from Sweetheart Rock, the 5-mile loop trail meanders along a well-marked, moderate hiking trail up into the lush mountains of Lanai.

Begin your hike among the pine forests before gaining elevation atop the ridge, where you will marvel at the 360-degree views of this beautiful island. Once you reach the higher elevation, you will notice the welcome drop in temperature and a welcomed coastal breeze. The trail was also the site of an infamous battle during the 1700s.

Lanai Visitors Guide
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Take A Peaceful Stroll In Lanai City
Lanai Visitors Guide
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5. Take A Peaceful Stroll in Lanai City

Welcome to Lanai City, where you can enjoy the small town feel and explore for an afternoon. While in Lanai City, shop at some of the charming mom-and-pop shops in Dole Park. Enjoy the quiet island life as you take a peaceful stroll on calm streets; with no traffic lights under the shade of towering pines, you can experience authentic Hawaiian vibes.

Visit the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center to discover the city’s geological and cultural identity. Choose a unique gift for your family and friends at the Lanai Hula Hut or Cory Labang Studio. Make sure to stop for a bite of local cuisine.

Lanai Visitors Guide
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Visit The Lanai Cat Sanctuary
Lanai Visitors Guide
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6. Visit the Lanai Cat Sanctuary

If you are an animal lover, Lanai Cat Sanctuary will be a must-visit during your time on the island. This non-profit sanctuary is a cat lover’s paradise for over 600 spayed/neutered felines, also known as the Lanai Lions, of all shapes and sizes.

The sanctuary rescues, houses, feeds, and spays cats. The main goal is to prevent feline overpopulation, which helps to protect Lanai’s endangered ground-nesting birds, such as the Hawaiian Petrel. These birds make a considerable contribution to Lanai’s ecosystem. The Lanai Cat Sanctuary is open from 10 am to 3 pm daily

Lanai Visitors Guide
7
Explore The Poaiwa Petroglyphs
Lanai Visitors Guide
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7. Explore the Poaiwa Petroglyphs

The Poaiwa Petroglyphs are beautiful carvings made by Ancient Hawaiians. The hike to the petroglyphs will lead you into Poaiwa Valley, where you will discover the petroglyphs carved on huge lava rock boulders. The lava rocks were considered the ideal surfaces for recording historical events, and it’s easy to see why. The petroglyphs portray many symbols, from pets to fighting warriors, all etched over generations.

Lanai Visitors Guide
8
Take In The Views From The Sweetheart Rock Overlook
Lanai Visitors Guide
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8. Take In Views From the Sweetheart Rock Overlook

By Hulopoe Beach, you will find one of Lanai’s most picturesque natural landmarks. The Puupehe Trail offers a scenic hike along the coastline ending with a glimpse of the iconic Sweetheart Rock. This 20-minute hike allows you to take in the majestic beauty of the ocean as you wander the coastal trail.

Take an early morning stroll to admire a breathtaking Lanai sunrise and enjoy one of the most scenic hikes on the island. You will find Sweetheart Rock nestled between Hulopoe Bay and Manele Bay. This impressive rock formation juts 80 feet from the sea and is featured in tragic Hawaiian legend.

This Lanai legend suggests that the warrior named Maka fell in love with Pehe and, when he became jealous, hid her in a sea cave. A violent storm hit the island, and Pehe drowned in the cave, and grief-stricken Maka climbed to the top of the rock, buried her there, and then jumped to his death.

Lanai Visitors Guide
8
Visit The Mike Carroll Gallery
Lanai Visitors Guide
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9. Visit The Mike Carroll Gallery

Mike Carroll departed Chicago for the stunning golden shores of Lanai in 2001. Here, his passion for art and nature blossomed into impressive oil painting skills. Stop by the Mike Carroll Gallery and admire his works that celebrate Hawaiian culture and the enthralling beauty of the island. As this is a working studio, you can often spot Mike creating his latest works when he isn’t wandering the island for inspiration. The art gallery also features a wide range of local art.

Lanai Visitors Guide
8
Explore Shipwreck Beach
Lanai Visitors Guide
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10. Explore Shipwreck Beach

Want to feel like a pirate? Then Shipwreck Beach is for you, also known as Kaiolohia, for its once-in-a-lifetime rusted ship views. The 6-mile-long golden sand beach once served as the final resting place for over a dozen ships, a few of which were sunk intentionally, while others were grounded accidentally.

The main attraction is a ship stuck just offshore called the YOGN-42. This WWII US Navy concrete fuel tanker was built in 1942. The Navy deliberately scuttled the vessel in 1954 during a failed project, and now you view it just offshore. While there are plenty of shipwrecks beneath the waves, this area is unsafe for diving due to the extremely powerful and dangerous waves.

Where To Stay In Lanai

There are very few accommodations in Lanai. For great hotel info and recommendations, check out our Lanai All Inclusive Resort Guide.

Maui Hotels. The Best Hotels In Maui.

For resort recommendations, check out our Lanai All Inclusive Resorts Guide

What To Pack For Your Trip!

Hawaii is an enchanting wonderland of relaxation and adventure. One can easily have the trip of a lifetime here. Packing for such a vacation shouldn’t be hard, so we’ve put together a list to help you pack and included some of our favorites as well. Check out our What To Pack For Your Hawaii Vacation Guide.

Maui Travel Guide: Things to do in Maui Hawaii

Check out our Packing List For Beach Vacation!

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